7:30 a.m. It's Sunday. I hit the floor groggy in my pink cupcake pajamas and head to the weather-beaten deck. It's warm out, like bread dough rising, warm enough and bright enough to keep my tired eyes squinting. Sunlight is all over green trees. It glints on the leftover morning dew coating the white railing. With a finger in it I write JESUS LIVES IN ME because common sense doesn't kick in until ten o'clock.
Welcome to my morning devotions. (My huge ESV study Bible is lying on the rickety bench behind me, just so you know.)
When I shut the last homeschool textbook, filed away the last science test and checked off the last box on my crammed school schedule, I realized there was something I wanted to do more than anything this summer: I wanted to connect with God.
You'd think a good Christian girl like me would have that all figured out and put in a box -- tied with a pink ribbon, even. I never could. For one thing, I couldn't get myself to sleep at night at a decent hour and so I couldn't get myself up at a decent hour, so the second my mum pulled the shades up with the morning reveille, I was already late for life. I had school to do. I had chores. I had places to go, speeches to make, friends to talk with, favors to fulfill. I didn't have time to pull out my leather Bible and just drink it all in, quietly. Once a week, if I was lucky, I would grit my teeth and get through a few verses and a muttered prayer before plunging back into life's battle.
Thank goodness for summers. Schedules relaxed, mother-issued reveille came a few hours later, and there was time to step into the warm late mornings with Bible in hand and prayer in heart. To me, the second I pack away two semesters of academia, that's my New Year. An icy, dead, sniffle-infested, blanket-requiring New Year doesn't inspire in me any thoughts of action -- plus I'm stuck in limbo between the school year, knocked out by the semester before and stumbling into the new one right out of the holidays. But summer -- summer when the birds sing outside your windows at five in the morning -- summer when the sunlight filters through white curtains -- summer when you can dream barefoot under the green apple trees -- that's when I get excited. That's when I'm free to live and grow.
My summer resolution was to get into the habit of daily devotions -- but seeing those words, "the habit of daily devotions," I realize that's not really what I want to do. I want to create a hunger in me for the Word. I want to carve out a place for starting the day out right, now, when the schedule's still soft. I want to learn how to study my Bible so I don't flip aimlessly through thin sheets of text, wondering how on earth this is spiritual.
More than that, I wanted to meet Him -- to meet the God I'd professed allegiance to, to learn the sound of His voice, the turn of His words, to think His thoughts, to do His doings. The thing was, I had left that desire so long in the dusty garage of "things to do when I have time" that it was completely out of shape when I pulled it out at the beginning of the summer. How did this work again?
A good place to start when you want to know God is to ask Him point blank: Now what do I do? So I asked Him. And this is what I learned.
1. It's about quality, not quantity. I was in the spiritual downy-dumps for the longest time because I'd never read through the entire Bible. I'd made it to Numbers, I think, and then the pattern was read a few verses, fall asleep, wake up bored, give up the Read Your Bible in a Year plans and wander away from Bible reading completely. But it dawned on me: The point of Bible reading wasn't to get a little lapel button that says, "I read the Bible in a year." It wasn't to give me a bragging point when the subject of Bible reading comes up in Sunday school. Reading the Bible isn't the point of reading the Bible.
Think back to your last Bible reading. If you can't even vaguely remember what you read about, you know exactly what my position was: I could read fast and furious, but I wasn't retaining anything. I was focused on quantity, not quality. That's shooting wide off the target.
I switched things to get my arrow in focus again. I would read huge chunks -- whole books, even -- in one sitting, but I would read them daily, over and over again. I would memorize passages that stuck out to me. I would pray them back to God. I would expound them in my mind, I would expound them to God, I would expound them to my best friend. It wasn't just a check on the list or a pat on the back anymore: it was truly meditating and delighting in the Word of God.
2. Memorization is easier than you think. Once I grew out of Awana, my memorization quotient dropped to zip, zilch, zero. I changed that this summer. But instead of forcing myself to memorize random passages as part of a daily routine, I would memorize as a part of my daily Bible reading. I would memorize meaty bites of Scripture that challenged me to rethink what I knew about God and my spiritual walk. And because it was taken straight out of my daily Bible reading, I memorize the full context and meaning of those words -- it wasn't just a verse or two taken out of context and tucked away meaningless in the back of my mind. (Handy Hint: Write down your memorization. Repeat them daily. If you're stuck wide awake at two in the morning, say them over and over until you fall asleep again.)
3. Drop everything to put it first. One of my hugest pet peeves is wearing pajamas all day. That's the worst part of being sick, in my humble opinion. But I've found that on days when I'm tired, busy or spiritually burnt out, even things like running a brush through my hair and going through the agonizing process of picking out an outfit will distract me from kneeling in God's presence first. That's why I was out on the back deck in my pink cupcake pajamas.
4. Prayer is the backbone of Bible-reading. The Word is not a collection of nice sayings to start the day out right. It's not dusty classic that you have to read for life. It's not a do-it-yourself guide when things get choppy. It's the direct link to God's voice, His thoughts, His will. We read it best when we read it in the covering of prayer, when we are actually sitting at Christ's feet and listening, like Mary, when we are worshipping and lifting our hearts to His. Much has been said about how reading the Bible will give you something to pray about -- it's just as true that talking to your Father will give you Someone to read about. I used to strictly draw a line between "Bible reading" and then "prayer" -- now I roll it all together, in a discussion: I listen when I'm reading; if I have a question, I ask, and then I listen; if He says something through His Word that is undeniably a God-thing, I praise Him for it -- aloud.
Connecting, you know. Connecting with Him. That's what I'm doing this summer. Join me, friends.